After notching its first Missouri Valley Conference victory of the season, Drake hopes to ride the momentum in a crucial two-game home stand this weekend against Indiana State and Illinois State.
“These are two teams we are comparable to,” head coach Tony Sunga said. “It’s a good chance to compete, take some sets and hopefully a match.”
Sunga said both teams are squads the Bulldogs will probably be competing with at the end of the season to get into the top six of the MVC standings. Only the top six teams play in the State Farm MVC tournament.
“These are teams we have to beat at home,” Sunga said. “It’s an important weekend. We have to play hard both nights. Win or lose, the second night is just as important as the first.”
Both matches are at 7 p.m. in the Knapp Center. Drake takes on the Sycamores on Friday and then the Redbirds on Saturday.
The Bulldogs picked up their first conference win at Evansville last Saturday in a five-set thriller.
Sunga was proud of the way his team bounced back from a tough loss at Southern Illinois the night before.
“We were the ones out of the gate first in the last set,” he said.
The victory was also special for Sunga, who registered his first conference win against a friend, who is the head coach at Evansville.
“If I had to beat somebody, I’d want to beat a friend,” he said.
Drake is 5-11 on the season after back-to-back years in which it advanced to the MVC tournament. Junior Whitney Westrum leads the team in kills with 184. Senior setter Caitlin Johnson has recorded 600 assists while senior libero Erika Price leads the squad with 229 digs.
“Win or lose, we learn…especially after losses,” Sunga said. “We’re a close team. (The girls) respond well to adversity. We’ve had some pretty tough competition for a team that’s new to itself; roles are different. Hopefully we react well to the pressure of D-I volleyball.”